In North Africa, pasta dishes tend to be concentrated in Tunisia and eastern Algeria. Nawasar is a small, flat square pasta that is made with semolina and flour, similar to Italian quadrettini and Greek hilopites. The pasta is traditionally served with either lamb or chicken spiced with bharat. There are many complex versions of this spice blend throughout the Middle East, but in Tunisia it is generally a simple mixture of dried rosebuds and ground cinnamon. While nawasar is not readily available in Australia, both quadrettini and hilopites make good substitutes. Alternatively, you could use fresh lasagna sheets, cut into small squares.
- 100 ml olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 x 1 kg whole chickens, each jointed into 8 pieces
- 3 carrots, cut in half lengthwise and halved again
- 2 potatoes, peeled, halved
- 60 ml (¼ cup) tomato purée or passata
- 200 g (1 cup) yellow split peas
- 400 g can chickpeas, rinsed, drained
- 450 g quadrettini*, hilopites* or 450g fresh lasagna sheets cut into 1 cm squares
Bharat spice mix
- 1 tsp dried rosebuds*
- 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To make the spice mix, using a mortar and pestle, grind rosebuds and chilli flakes until ground. Transfer to a small bowl and stir through turmeric and cinnamon. Set aside.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add half the spice mix and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl. Add 1 tbsp oil to the pan, then increase heat to high. Working in 2 batches, cook chicken pieces, turning occasionally, for 7 minutes or until browned all over. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate until needed.
Reduce heat to medium, then add onion mixture to the pan. Add carrots and potatoes and cook for 3 minutes to coat with onion mixture. Stir in tomato purée, 1.5 litres water and split peas and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes or until peas are tender. Stir in chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Toss pasta with remaining 2 tbsp oil in a greased 4 litre-capacity deep baking dish. Ladle over the sauce to cover. Arrange chicken on top and scatter over remaining spice mix. Bake for 35 minutes or until pasta is al dente and chicken is cooked through. Stand for 5 minutes, then serve.
* Quadrettini and hilopites are types of small, flat square pasta, available from selected greengrocers and delis.
* Dried rosebuds are available from Middle Eastern food shops or specialty spice shops.
DRINK 2009 Huia Pinot Gris, Marlborough,New Zealand ($27)
As seen in Feast magazine, Issue 11, pg63.
Photography by Derek Swalwell.